If you didn’t keep an eye on Albie Manzo‘s Instagram account this summer, you were missing out.
The Manzo’d with Children star underwent quite the body transformation — but according to him, the evolution has been so much more than just physical.
Speaking to PEOPLE exclusively ahead of Sunday’s season finale, which will feature his 30th birthday celebration, Manzo said he first became inspired to kick-start a major fitness change in his life at the beginning of the year.
“I got to a place early on in 2016 where I just had to be honest with myself that I was not happy with where things were going,” he admitted. “I just didn’t like the way I looked, I didn’t really like how things were going in my business life, how things were going in my dating and personal life … and at some point or another you just have to take responsibility for how you’re feeling.”
“I felt there was someone else buried under all this junk that could truly be happy,” he added. “It’s about putting goals down on paper and saying: ‘This is who I want to be’ — and that’s really exactly what I did.”
“It was really, really hardcore,” he said. “I had to give up drinking. You give up all carbs, all sugar, all red meat, for two weeks. I’m eating fish, chicken, vegetables and eggs.”
“I learned a lot going through that process because there are a lot of parallels in that and real life,” he added. “There are things that you’re addicted to emotionally. You’ve seen my family — I had to work off generations of pasta in my blood!”
Manzo ended up cutting seven to eight points of body fat in eight weeks — and while it was “really, really tough” at first, “it becomes like breathing after a while.”
Now, Manzo says he’s “pretty much addicted” to the lifestyle. Though he’s eased up on some of the dietary restrictions (“You have to have that balance — you can’t deprive yourself either”), he still hits the gym to lift weights five times a week and exercises in some way almost every single day.
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The Bravo star said he initially got some flack for the intensity of the program, but that it was important to him to stick with it not just from a physical perspective.
“I spent a lot of time really just trying to understand myself,” he said. “Like, if I want a good relationship, am I being the type of guy that’s going to get that in return? Am I putting out the kind of vibes that I want to attract back to me? A lot of that came from fitness, and it just kind of snowballed into a big shift in my entire outlook on everything.”
Manzo’d with Children airs with back-to-back episodes this Sunday at 9 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. ET on Bravo.